Redbone Coonhound – General Description
The Redbone Coonhound is a breed of dog, which is widely used for hunting bear, raccoon, and cougar. Their agility allows them to be used for hunting from swamplands to mountains and some can be used as water dogs. The Redbone Coonhound is the only solid colored coonhound. The AKC standard says, “The Redbone mingles handsome looks and an even temperament with a confident air and fine hunting talents.” This breed has been registered with the UKC since 1904. This is the type of hound that was featured in the novel, Where the Red Fern Grows.
Classification and Standards
- AKC Hound
- UKC Scenthound Group
Coonhounds are an American style of hunting dog developed for the quarry and working conditions found in the United States. Coondogs are highly valued.
In the colonial period, foxhounds were imported for the popular sport of foxhunting. Various breeds of foxhounds and other hunting hounds were imported from England, Ireland, and France, making up the initial composition of the dogs that were later known as Virginia Hounds.
Foxhounds were found to be inadequate for hunting animals that did not hide near the ground, but instead took to the treetops to escape, such as raccoons, opossums, bobcats and even larger prey like cougars and bears. The dogs were often confused or unable to hold the scent when this occurred, and would mill about.
The name is derived from their original use in hunting raccoons.
Treeing dogs were developed, chosen for a keen sense of smell, the ability to track, chase and corner any manner of animal independent of human commands, and, most importantly, to follow an animal both on the ground and when it takes to the trees. A good coonhound will bark and keep its prey treed until the hunters arrive. Bloodhounds specifically were added to many coonhound lines to enhance the ability to track. Some dogs have webbed toes to deal with the rivers and swamps so common in their hunting grounds.
Coonhounds can hunt individually or as a pack. Generally, hunters do not chase their quarry along with the hounds, unlike organized foxhunting, but wait and listen to the distinctive baying to determine if a raccoon or other animal has been treed. Besides raccoons, coonhounds are excellent at handing all manner of prey if trained properly.
Other Coonhounds include:
- American Black & Tan Coonhound
- Bluetick Coonhound
- English Coonhound
- Plott Hound
- Treeing Walker Coonhound
Character & Temperament
The Redbone Coonhound is an excellent companion and family pet, with some special considerations. They love to be with their owners and family, and are happy just doing things with their humans, or sitting nearby, watching them: a Redbone Coonhound who has been left out of the family fun or penned up during the party is often a heartbroken one. Overall, they are very affectionate and loving: they will often leap to their feet barking loudly to greet their master upon his return home and a typical Redbone will shower everyone with love, licking the faces of family and friends. However, a dog of this breed typically will not seek attention as fervently as other breeds (such as a Labrador Retriever). They are very happy if you pet them, and love it. They are also a very boisterous breed: as explained above, adult Redbones grow to a large size. They may not know how big and strong they are when young and thus may accidentally knock over elderly adults and young children if left untrained or never taught the command “heel,” so basic obedience should be emphasized with this breed. The Redbone is an extremely vocal dog, as would be expected of a hound. The breed is known for its distinctive “drawling” bark, also known as a “bay.” Hunters who use the breed follow the sound of the loud howls as the dogs track quarry. It takes training to first control their excited, emotional, booming barks, but also to help provide the hounds an outlet for their ‘tracking’ desires that sometimes drive their vocalizations.
If not hunting with the dog, an excellent outlet is to train as a watchdog, seeing that it’s a perfect alarm call as well as a highly alert and focused breed. As watchdogs, Redbones are unusually aware of the dress, ethnicity, and territory of their owners, and have been known to “protect” the yard against service providers such as postal workers and garbage collectors. Their deep bark and long canine teeth can be most intimidating to the unwary intruder.
Redbones do not reach full physical and mental maturity until the age of two years, comparatively slower than many other breeds. They may also come in black fur rarely. Puppies and adolescents are more energetic than adults and need lots of activity or they will become destructive, often chewing furniture, chewing shoes, and snooping around the garbage. When going through obedience training it is imperative for a pet owner to know that harsher methods are not effective with this breed. Coonhounds are typically stubborn but can also be sensitive; being overbearing can frighten the animal. Once trained and aware of its size the breed is known to be very gentle and can be trusted with children, easily tolerating a small child playing tag or a crawling baby tugging on its long ears. While playing with older children they will happily jump into the family swimming pool to play. The dogs are adept in the water and can be compared to other water-loving breeds like the Labrador Retriever in swimming ability.
Coonhounds are in the same group as well known breeds such as the Beagle, Basset Hound, and Bloodhound: they are bred primarily to track game using sight and scent over long distances. They also instinctively mark their position for following hunters by vocalizing as they catch up with their quarry. Therefore, this breed will have the desire to chase small animals such as rabbits, squirrels, badgers, or even cats. A Redbone Coonhound should have a tall fence to retain the animal and keep it from wandering.
Hunting dogs require a good deal of exercise to stay happy and healthy. The breed is best suited to the countryside or suburbs; urban environs are less than ideal but workable so long as they get roughly an hour and a half or more of walking per day. Redbones are known to have an independent intelligence especially well suited for problem solving. This can be an issue if the problem they want to solve is their backyard fence or the dog-proof garbage. Most Redbones require leashes to avoid wandering. Because of their instinctive desire to follow scents, they are eager to follow their noses and may ignore their owners’ commands-they should not be allowed off leash in an uncontrolled area.
In the late 18th century, many European type hunting dogs were imported to America, most of them of Scottish, French, English, and Irish ancestry: the English Foxhound, the Grand Bleu de Gascogne, the Welsh Hound, the beagle, and the Bloodhound were among these. Most often, these dogs were imported so that wealthy planters of the Tidewater could mimic the European gentry and engage in foxhunting, with smaller amounts of dogs winding up on small farms. However, after the American Revolution, as settlement pushed farther West and deeper South, hunters found they needed dogs that were much more suited to the environment and wildlife found there: the hounds of Europe at that time were bred to hunt in terrain that did not include bayous, wide open spaces, rugged mountains, cypress swamps, or animals that would fight back viciously like alligators, bears, porcupines, cougars, or raccoons. In addition, such dogs were found to be nearly useless unless their prey burrowed into the ground: when confronted with an animal that climbed a tree or (in some cases) tried to throw off their pursuers in deep, swampy water, they would mill about confused (when confronted with porcupines they would sometimes even flee.) Over time, Southern hunters would selectively breed dogs that wouldn’t back down, had great stamina, and would tree their quarry: coonhounds.
In the late 18th century Scottish immigrants brought with them red colored foxhounds to Georgia, dogs which would be the foundation stock of the Redbone. Later, c. 1840 Irish Foxhounds and Bloodhound lines were added to the mix. The name would come from an early breeder, Peter Redbone of Tennessee, though other breeders of note are Georgia F.L. Birdsong of Georgia (contemporary) and the 19th Century’s Dr. Thomas Henry. Over time, breeders followed a selective program that led to a coonhound that is more specialized for prey which climbs trees than European hunting dogs, was unafraid of taking on large (and ornery) animals, was agile enough to carry on over mountain or in meadow, and liked to swim if necessary. They were ideal for pack hunting of both small and larger prey. Originally, the Redbone had a black saddleback, but by the beginning of the 20th century, they were a pure red tone.
Like many American hunting dogs, especially those from the South, they were widely known and loved by hunters and farmers, but totally unknown in the show ring. Recently, this has changed, and the Redbone has found recognition by the two major American kennel clubs (Many young American students of school age today are familiar with this breed through a novel called Where the Red Fern Grows: the two dogs owned by the main character, Old Dan and Little Ann, are both Redbone Coonhounds.) Unfortunately, for reasons of its main use as a hunting dog rather than a show dog Redbones are extremely rare dogs outside of the United States. There are very few breeders outside of North America of this hound and it is virtually unknown in Europe or Australia.
Size & Appearance
The Redbone Coonhound has a lean, muscular, well proportioned build. The body type is typical to the coonhounds subgroup, with long straight legs, a wide barrel chest, and a head and tail that is held high and proud when hunting or showing. The Redbone’s face is often described as having a pleading expression, with sorrowful dark brown or hazel eyes and long, drooping ears. Their coat is short and smooth against the body, but coarse enough to provide protection to the skin while hunting through dense underbrush. Their paws have especially thick pads and dewclaws are common. The nose should be black and prominent. The ears are floppy and should extend to nearly the end of the nose if stretched out. Coloration of the nose is always black and the coat color is always a rich red, though a small amount of white on the chest, between the legs, or on the feet is permissible, though not preferred. Variations of black fur on the face and muzzle are also not uncommon. The toes are typically webbed.
Males should be 22-27 inches (56-68.5 cm) at the shoulder, with females slightly shorter at 21-26 inches (53–66 cm). Weight should be proportional to the size and bone structure of the individual dogs, with a preference towards leaner working dogs rather than heavier dogs. Generally, weights will range from 45 to 70 lbs (20.5 to 31.75 kg). Males are typically larger and heavier boned than females and carry a deeper bay.
Health & Maintenance
No unusual diseases or claims of extraordinary health have been documented for this breed.
In Movies, TV, & Print
Mangy redbone hound in The Outlaw Josie Wales
- Breed Standard – http://www.akc.org/breeds/redbone_coonhound/index.cfm
- Dmdir84 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- Arlawson (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
- Rcaa (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
- Dan Harrelson (originally posted to Flickr as Rusty) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
- Linda (Redbone Coonhound Uploaded by Magnus Manske) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The Outlaw Josie Wales
Redbone Coonhound Treeing a Racoon (You have to love that bay…)
Years ago, most coon hunters who owned a red dog of unknown ancestry, but proven ability in tracking and treeing raccoons, called his dog a “Redbone”. Then a few serious breeders who were devoted both to the breed and the sport began a campaign of selective breeding to produce a hound with the necessary characteristics to make a superior coonhound that would breed true to type in color and conformation.
The foundation stock of the modern day Redbone came from George F.L. Birdsong of Georgia, who was a noted foxhunter and breeder. He obtained the pack of Dr. Thomas Henry in the 1840’s.
As is the case with most of the other coonhound breeds, the ancestors of the Redbone were foxhounds. A Bloodhound cross is said to have been made, and it’s also said that the blood of the Irish hounds was introduced later. This latter cross is said to account for the white chest and feet markings which still occasionally show up in Redbone pups today.
The first dogs were commonly called “Saddlebacks”. The background color was red, and most of them possessed black saddle markings. By selective breeding, the black saddle was bred out and the solid red dogs became known as Redbone Coonhounds.
The Redbone was the second coonhound breed to be registered with UKC, the first one being registered in 1902, two years after the American Black & Tan. Today, of the seven coonhound breeds, the Redbone is probably the most uniform as to type and size. They are coon hunting specialists but also proficient in trailing and treeing bear, cougar and bobcat. Often times, when used on big game, Redbones are hunted in packs.
The Redbone is a medium-sized hound, with a rich, deep red colored coat. He is well-balanced and agile, making him adaptable to various types of hunting and terrain.
This breed is characterized by its pleading eyes and “sweet” voice. They have a natural treeing instinct and make excellent water dogs. They are even tempered and affectionate with a strong desire to please.
Moderately broad, and slightly domed in skull, proportionate to general body size. Muzzle is well balanced with the other features of the head, as long as the skull, with a straight nasal bone, never dish-faced or concave. The planes of the top skull and muzzle are parallel. Stop is well defined but not abrupt. The head gives the general impression of length rather than width.
TEETH – Scissors bite preferred, even bite acceptable. Undershot or overshot are disqualifying faults.
EYES – Set fairly well apart in skull, brown to hazel in color, with the darker color preferred. Round in shape but not prominent. Expression is pleading.
NOSE – Large, with well-opened nostrils. Black in color, fully pigmented.
EARS – Set moderately low, firmly attached to head. Fine in texture, not stiff, and reaching near the end of the nose when stretched forward. Size in proportion to head.
Medium long, strong, slightly arched and held erect, denoting proudness. Throat clean, but slight fold of skin below angle of jaw is not objectionable.
Forelegs straight, with good bone, set well under body. Cleanly muscled for strength and speed. Pasterns strong and straight, nearly vertical with just enough slope to absorb shock. Length of leg from elbow to ground is approximately one-half the height at withers. Shoulders sloping, clean and muscular.
Chest is both deep and broad, and ribs are well sprung for plenty of lung space. Topline is slightly higher at withers than at hips. Back is strong and straight, loin muscular and slightly arched, with moderate tuck up. Overall proportion (measured from point of shoulder to point of buttocks and withers to ground) is square or slightly longer than tall.
Thighs well muscled and strong. Rear legs straight from hip to foot when viewed from behind, never cowhocked. Dewclaws removed. Moderate angulation at stifle and hock to balance with forequarter. Rear pasterns short and strong.
Cat-like. Compact, and well padded, with strong, well arched toes and stout, well set nails.
Set slightly below the line of the back, moderate in length, with a slight brush.
Typical short, close, glossy, hound type coat.
Solid red preferred, small amount of white on brisket or feet not objectionable.
SIZE AND WEIGHT
Height at withers for adult males, 22 to 27 inches. For adult females, 21 to 25 inches. Weight proportionate to size and medium build.
The well balanced and agile Redbone moves freely and easily at a reasonable speed with head and tail carried well up.
(A dog with an Eliminating Fault is not to be considered for placement in a bench show/conformation event, nor are they to be reported to UKC.)
Males under 22 inches or over 27 inches. Females under 21 inches or over 25 inches. (Entries in Puppy Class are not to be eliminated for being undersize.)
(A dog with a Disqualification must not be considered for placement in a bench show/conformation event, and must be reported to UKC.)
- Undershot or overshot.
- Unilateral or bilateral cryptorchid.
- Viciousness or extreme shyness.
Note: Spayed and neutered dogs may compete in all UKC Licensed Coonhound Events, including bench shows, nite hunts, water races and field trials.
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